Day 2: Heading to Reykjavik and Seeing Our First Sheep's Head on a Plate


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Europe » Iceland » Southwest » Reykjanesbær
October 1st 2009
Published: October 22nd 2009
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Yo!Yo!Yo!

Sheep's on a plate wearing a baseball cap. Proudly held by head chef.
Keflavik airport is often known as Reykjavik airport to avoid confusing stupid travellers, but it is actually a good 23 miles away from Reykjavik (not close, although this is less than Gatwick is from London), and the capital has its own airport right on the edge of the city, so I’m not sure how well it succeeds in not confusing stupid travellers. However, being the only international airport in the country (Reykjavik’s being used for domestic flights only), you can’t really go far wrong, unless you decide to get a taxi into the city instead of the bus, in which case you’ll probably need a loan to fund the rest of your trip. The buses aren’t exactly cheap either, costing us £9 to get into the city. For an extra £2 they’ll drop you off at your hotel as well, but being cheapskates we decided we’d walk from the bus stop, it couldn’t be that far after all, surely?

The bus journey from Keflavik immediately showed how sparse and changeable the Icelandic landscape is. At first, for almost as far as the eye can see, the land is a flat, moss covered rocky lava field, shaped presumably by the eruptions of volcanoes that peeped out in ridges on the horizon. Just to remind us that these fields are still relatively new in comparison to most of the world, steam popped out of vents here and there while we drove through a couple of small towns that had set themselves up between the lava fields and the Ocean. As we got closer to Reykjavik, snow capped mountains also draw themselves in, surrounding the city on the Eastern side while leaving enough gaps into the flat land around for roads to the north and south, as well as where we were coming from on the Western tip of the peninsula.

The bus dropped us off at the station where we popped inside while we got our bearings. Here we came across our second taste of Icelandic cuisine: a small cafeteria, which looked nice but would probably have been pretty unremarkable were it not for the way it advertised its speciality dish. The traditional Icelandic staple of an entire sheep’s head was served here, and what better way to advertise it than to draw a cartoon sheep’s head, sitting on a plate and wearing a baseball cap? The only way it could have been better advertised, actually, was if the cartoon sheep’s head wearing a baseball cap on a plate had a small speech bubble saying ‘Yo’, which somebody had kindly graffittied on to the caricature next to the entrance, as if to illustrate the point.

We found getting our bearings pretty easy, mainly because the bus station is conveniently positioned between the airport and the big cathedral. Confident, for once, of my map reading skills, we set about the walk from the south to the east of the city through small neighbourhoods of mainly square buildings. The walk, as it turned out, was just over 2 miles, not helped by having to take a diversion when we found the road closed not long before we got to the hostel. A big 45 minute walk with our backpacks normally means a lot of sweating and complaining, but the temperature kept us refrigerated throughout, and reminded me that gloves will be essential wear for the remainder of the trip.

Once we had checked into the hostel, dropped off our bags and left again for a walk around, it was around 6.30, and light was beginning to dim,
A Random SignA Random SignA Random Sign

A sign on the footpath presumably telling us that is was a footpath. Nice hat.
if not fade completely. We grabbed some supermarket supplies from the local 10-11, whose prices seem pretty, well, pricey, then eventually settled on having a hotdog for our evening meal (whose sausage was wrapped in bacon, an excellent idea unless you’re a vegetarian. Or a pig). It was dark by the time we were fuelled up, so deciding against walking into the city, which was about as far as the bus station from the hostel, we took a walk towards the shore and around the bay. The dark was now adding to the cold, and not even the gloves that I had finally dug out of my bag were having much effect. Tired and cold, we headed back to the hostel with a plan to wear those warm clothes we had sensibly bought from now on, and lazed around in the dining area for a while before heading to our room. Staying in our room with us is a Canadian salesman, who, through our brief chat, seems to live up to the Canadian stereotype of being a thoroughly nice bloke, as well as a Dutch girl and a French man, who also seem nice but we haven’t really spoken to yet beyond the usual niceties.


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